Looking at Alexandre Carrier’s Up and Down Road with the Nashville Predators

Jan 21, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier (45) assists on a redirection goal during the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Alexandre Carrier (45) assists on a redirection goal during the first period against the Los Angeles Kings at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

If there is any player who has been a mixed bag during his time with the Nashville Predators, it is Alexandre Carrier. He is someone who has had to deal with ups and downs just about as much as anyone in the league would have to.

For Carrier, it has been particularly tough, as more than once he has looked to be on the cusp of breaking out, only to not have things go according to plan. It has been for the entire time since he got drafted, in both the AHL and the NHL.

Carrier currently finds himself in a somewhat precarious situation, being set for unrestricted free agency next offseason and about to hit age 27. He entered this offseason as an RFA and was able to come to terms with a one-year deal worth $2.5 million which entirely surpasses his last contract extension of three years where the total contract was worth $2.2 million, so at the very least, a nice pay raise for one year for Carrier.

Unfortunately, Carrier had an underwhelming 2022-23 campaign, so on a one-year deal, this figures to be a major turning point in his career with the Nashville Predators.

Carrier has had to battle great adversity in Nashville Predators’ system

Flashing back to the very beginning of his career, Carrier was drafted 115th overall (fourth round) by the Nashville Predators in 2015. Not exactly a high-profile position, but he quickly changed the narrative and garnered lots of excitement his way.

Carrier had two strong seasons with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL, one before he was drafted, and one right after. They were good enough to earn him a spot on the Milwaukee Admirals in the 2016-17 season, and it did not take long for him to adapt to the game at the professional level.

Carrier’s two-way game showed, especially on the offensive side, as he had six goals and 33 assists in 72 games. He even played two games in Nashville during the season, and he clearly was not ready for the NHL game, but it was still a good sign and showed that he was to be thought of in the Predators’ near-future plans.

But things did not go according to plan, as Carrier seemingly hit a wall and played in just three NHL games in the three seasons after. Those games were all in 2019-20, and it was a bit concerning since the third pairing on the Predators was never any good in those seasons.

Beginning in 2020-21 at age 24, Carrier had to be ready to take the full step to the NHL soon, and that was when he put it together. He entered the lineup in March of the shortened season, partially due to injuries, but never looked back upon getting the opportunity.

Carrier did well enough to be protected by the Predators during the 2021 Seattle Kraken expansion draft, which said a lot since he had not even played a full year in the NHL. But the very next season, he proved that it was not a fluke.

Once again, Carrier flashed that two-way ability and showed his potential to the league, recording three goals and 27 assists in 77 games, and noticeably getting better at both ends of the ice as the year went on.

Carrier’s efforts were good enough to earn him a spot on the NHL’s first All-Rookie team, finishing just one spot behind Calder Trophy winner Moritz Seider. Despite how long and hard the work was to get there, Carrier was finding his footing and showing that the talent was no joke.

Carrier was right on the track to blossoming into a star, and with a contract year coming up, it was a great opportunity for him to continue his momentum and earn a long-term deal. Both him and the Predators hoped that was the case, but nothing seemed to go right in 2022-23.

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Pressure is Back on Carrier at a Particularly Important time

A multitude of issues sunk what was hoped to be a huge year for Carrier’s development in 2022-23. Just for starters, his base stats had a big drop-off, having just two goals and seven assists in 43 games, and his play on the ice unfortunately backed that up.

Carrier was not making very many plays on either side of the ice, and especially at the beginning of the year he just felt invisible sometimes. It actually looked like he was starting to pick it up a few months into the season, but then came the injuries.

Even by usual standards, these ones were quite unlucky, missing just over a month after getting injured in a brawl with Logan Stanley. Then right when he returned from that one, he took a puck near the collarbone and missed the remainder of the season.

The injuries were horribly timed and uncontrollable, and it is also hard to say that his on-ice struggles were all on him. Nobody on the Predators looked particularly good at the beginning of the 2022-23 season, and team offense, which is a definite part of Carrier’s game, was severely lacking.

Not only that, but there seemed to be a noticeable difference in his game when paired with Mattias Ekholm instead of Roman Josi. Ekholm is more of a defensive guy, which allowed Carrier’s offensive game to shine brighter, and he of course is not outshining Josi in that regard.

Now comes the start of the 2023-24 season, and there are a lot of questions surrounding Carrier’s future with the team. There is plenty of reason to still believe in him and the Predators obviously want to give him all the chances they can, but he absolutely has to have a strong showing this year to get a longer commitment from the organization before hitting unrestricted free agency in 2024.

Carrier’s situation is fairly similar to that of Tommy Novak’s, except his is one where only the team may have trouble fitting him. Barring something completely unexpected, Novak should comfortably be on a team in 2024-25, whether that is in Nashville or not.

I am not saying Carrier’s career is over if he is not good in 2023-24, but you cannot deny that he will be in trouble if that happens. At that point, he will likely be in a situation where he is playing third-line minutes in an effort to rejuvenate himself, which is usually a recipe for disaster.

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As far as what I think happens with Carrier this coming year, he will be better and play more similarly to how he did in 2021-22. A lot of that is because Head Coach Andrew Brunette’s coaching style favors offense much more than John Hynes’, which obviously helps a guy like Carrier.

But a fair concern is how the defense will be constructed. The Predators have a logjam of defensemen, especially on the right side, which is where Carrier plays. Adding Luke Schenn in free agency brought another wrinkle to the Predators defensive corps.

Not only that, but Carrier and Tyson Barrie are both offensively-minded right-handed guys, and one of them is going to play alongside Josi, who is obviously the main offensive threat.

The could be a situation where Carrier, Barrie, and others are flipped from pairing to pairing fairly often, which could make it hard to generate consistency. And Brunette could very likely change the team’s style and make it where that two offensive defensemen can coexist on one pairing, but it is still a big question mark.

The Predators do seem to like Carrier and that is evidenced by them bringing him back for another year and giving him top-four action when he plays. But he cannot squander the opportunity to bounce back this year, or else both sides could be in regrettable situations next year.